How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 5 of 5 – Mind

Links to all 5 parts in this series
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 1 of 5 – Introduction
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 2 of 5 – Time & Plan
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 3 of 5 – Space & Goals
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 4 of 5 – Consistency & Retention
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 5 of 5 – Mind


Learning something new can be intimidating. With so much information out there, it can be hard to know where to start or how to approach the task of mastering a new skill. There is an efficient way to get started that often yields fast results. In this last post on this topic, we look at how our Mind and how our state of mental health will affect learning.

Mind, or Your Mental Health
If anything, the pandemic taught us that it is important to take care of your mental health. And this also applies to learning. Learning new skills can be an intimidating process, and it’s easy to get in our heads when we’re learning something new. It can seem like everyone else is so much better than us and that we will never measure up. When I am asked, I am not competing with anyone – I am competing with myself. I often ask myself this question to myself – What can I do to become a better version of myself? How can I be a better listener, or how can I play those difficult barre chords on my guitar?
Like anyone else, I get those negative feelings too. I found that there are ways to combat these negative thoughts and stay positive during the learning process. I often just stop what I am doing, and start cooking – which relaxes me. Find your relaxation and your comfort zone; go there, and do what you like. And come back with a fresh mind. I found that my actions are three-pronged.
First of all, it’s important to validate your (negative) feelings. It’s okay if you feel inferior or like you’re not good enough or never going to make it; those thoughts happen to all of us at some point during the learning process. Acknowledging that these thoughts exist is the first step towards overcoming them.
Secondly, it’s also important to remember that you’re not alone in this process. Everyone experiences self-doubt; even those who seem like they have their skill mastered have probably had moments where they felt like they weren’t good enough. Remind yourself that everyone has been where you are right now and that everyone experiences these feelings at some point in their life.
Finally, celebrate small wins. It is important and it helps us stay motivated throughout the learning process when we celebrate small wins along the way. Like singing that song you have been practicing – record it, and send it to your family, and friends. You will be surprised to hear back from them and how tough you have been to yourself.
I always look at how long I have come from when I started, or from last week. Sometimes, I call my mother and play that song that I have been practicing. She tells me how well I am playing. Find that support group among your friends and family. They will help you see your accomplishments and keep you motivated as you continue on your journey.
No matter how difficult or overwhelming the learning process may seem, it’s important to remember that everyone has gone through similar struggles and experienced self-doubt at some point during the journey. The key is staying positive and motivated by validating our feelings, knowing we’re not alone in our struggle, and celebrating every small win along the way! With this mindset, anyone can become an expert on any given topic with enough practice and dedication.

Conclusion
Next time you need to learn something new, use these techniques. By breaking down the task into small, manageable steps and then teaching it to someone else, you can quickly gain a deep understanding of the material. And this is a blueprint for you to adjust and make it your own.
What other methods have you used to efficiently learn new things? Share your tips in the comments below!

JPS Nagi
January 12, 2023

How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 4 of 5 – Consistency & Retention

Links to all 5 parts in this series
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 1 of 5 – Introduction
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 2 of 5 – Time & Plan
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 3 of 5 – Space & Goals
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 4 of 5 – Consistency & Retention
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 5 of 5 – Mind


Learning something new can be intimidating. With so much information out there, it can be hard to know where to start or how to approach the task of mastering a new skill. There is an efficient way to get started that often yields fast results. In part 4 of this journey, we look at how Consistency and Retention Strategies can help your learning growth.

The Power of Consistency and Discipline
We all have goals we want to achieve. But sometimes it can feel like a daunting task even when you know where to start. You need motivation and discipline to create sustained success in the long run. Let’s talk about why consistency and discipline are important, and how they can help you reach your goal. The foundation of any successful goal is having a strong “why” behind it; finding out why you want to do something is the first step in reaching that goal. Your “why” should be bigger than just yourself and should make you excited for the journey ahead. Having a clear understanding of why your goal matters will help you stay motivated when things get hard.
When I started playing the guitar, I did two things. Once I placed the guitar on a stand in my office, so I can just turn and pick it up and strum it; and two, I would make sure I do pick it up, every day, multiple times a day. In the current world where we all have limited time and patience, we easily give up. Sometimes we give up when we tackle something hard.
Motivation is great, but it won’t always be there – that’s why discipline is so important in achieving success. It’s like building muscle; the more victories you have on days where motivation is lacking, the stronger your ability to handle those days will become. And if you mess up one day, don’t let it derail all your progress – one mistake shouldn’t define your success or failure. Consistency and discipline are about embracing mistakes as part of the learning process, and using them as an opportunity for growth!
Another key element to reaching success with consistency and discipline is having a plan that works for your lifestyle and schedule. Make sure that whatever plan you come up with fits into your daily routine – this way it will be easier for you to stick with it in the long run! It can also help if you break down larger goals into smaller chunks; this will allow you to track your progress more easily, making each task more manageable along the way.
Consistency and discipline are essential when working towards any goal – big or small! Find out what drives you, break down larger goals into smaller tasks, create a plan that works for you, and use mistakes as an opportunity for growth! With consistency and discipline by your side, anything can be achieved!

Improve Your Retention and Learning Abilities
Retention is an important part of learning; it allows us to remember information and use it to our advantage. However, it can be difficult to retain information if we don’t have the right strategies in place. Let us look at three strategies that you can use to improve your retention and learning abilities.
The first strategy is doing a cursory pass of learning – it could be watching a video from start to finish, going over the notes from your class, or just looking at all the chords, and progressions from your guitar instructor. Go from start to finish without any distractions. Get an understanding of the material, which will make it easier for us to retain the information later on. This helps you understand what are you learning.
Take a break, and start the next step in the process. And this time, taking copious notes while watching the video. I also read them aloud in my voice; it helps me internalize the concepts. Or when I write in my hand, I tend to learn more quickly.
The second strategy is to practice as much as possible. Practicing helps you solidify your knowledge by giving you hands-on experience with the material. If you’re trying to learn something new, try practicing it as often as possible until you feel comfortable with it. This will help ensure that you not only understand the concept but also have a better chance of retaining it in the future.
The third strategy is repetition. Repetition helps us commit information more firmly into our memory because we are constantly revisiting and reinforcing it. If you want to make sure that you remember something, try repeating it multiple times throughout your day or week so that it sticks with you better over time.
By implementing these three strategies—watching tutorial videos, practicing as much as possible, and repetition—you can significantly improve your retention and learning abilities. These tactics will help ensure that you remember what you learn more easily and can use it effectively going forward. So why not give them a try today? You may just surprise yourself at how much easier retaining new information becomes!

JPS Nagi
January 12, 2023

How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 3 of 5 – Space & Goals

Links to all 5 parts in this series
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 1 of 5 – Introduction
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 2 of 5 – Time & Plan
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 3 of 5 – Space & Goals
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 4 of 5 – Consistency & Retention
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 5 of 5 – Mind


Learning something new can be intimidating. With so much information out there, it can be hard to know where to start or how to approach the task of mastering a new skill. There is an efficient way to get started that often yields fast results. In part 3 of this journey, we look at advantages of a Distraction Free Space and Setting Realistic Goals for yourself in your learning journey.

Distraction Free Space
It’s no surprise that distractions are a major hindrance to our productivity. Whether it’s the urge to check our phones, notifications from social media, or even simple things like leaving the window open and hearing cars go by, distractions can have a huge effect on our ability to focus and learn.
Removing distractions is important because it allows us to focus on one task at a time. When we try to multitask, we end up jumping from task to task without completing any of them. This results in wasted time and energy that could have been better spent focusing on just one task at a time. Additionally, when we are constantly bombarded with distractions, our concentration decreases over time and it becomes harder for us to focus on what matters most.
The first step in removing distractions is being aware of them. Our smartphones are smart enough to give us that weekly summary of how we spend our time on our phones. I encourage you to check it out. See how much time you spend on social media, productivity, or entertainment apps. They are important, but be aware of them. Spend some time analyzing what triggers your distraction; are notifications popping up on your phone? The sound of people talking outside? Once you identify these triggers, you can work towards eliminating them or finding ways around them. Most phones nowadays allow you to have focus options when you are driving and sleeping. Create your custom focus options for learning (and even one called work). Configure it so you do get notifications when sent by your VIPs. Silence everything else. If noise distracts you, invest in noise-canceling headphones or close the windows in your study area. There are many options available in the market, and I use them often.
The second step is setting boundaries for yourself – both physical and mental boundaries – so that you can protect yourself from getting distracted easily. Make sure that the environment around you helps you stay focused. For example, I also turn off applications or even turn off secondary monitors for my home office setup and avoid activities that will take away from my concentration.
Removing distractions and setting boundaries are key elements of optimizing learning processes for many individuals today. By being aware of potential triggers and taking intentional steps towards eliminating those triggers (or finding ways around them), we can create environments where optimal learning takes place without interruption or distraction from outside sources. Even if it takes a while, I can tell you, you will be able to train your mind to get there.

Setting Realistic Goals
It can be overwhelming at times, but if you take the time to set realistic goals for yourself, you can break down bigger objectives into manageable steps that will help you feel productive and satisfied with your progress. Let’s look at how taking small steps can help you reach big goals.
The first step in setting realistic goals is to start small. Instead of setting an exorbitant goal like reading five hours a day, break it down into smaller chunks such as reading for 30 minutes every morning. This way, you can focus on making incremental progress without feeling overwhelmed or discouraged by a huge goal that seems impossible to achieve. Starting small also helps build confidence and momentum as you start accomplishing your daily tasks, which will encourage and motivate you to keep going until the larger goal is reached.
Another important factor when setting realistic goals is flexibility. Not everything will always go according to plan and there will be days when things don’t work out as expected. When this happens, don’t beat yourself up; instead, adjust your goals accordingly so that they are still achievable within the timeframe you have set for yourself (or even earlier). This will help prevent burnout while still keeping you on track toward reaching your objectives. Don’t be afraid to take a break, clear your he because that is equally important (we will cover that in the Mental Health post).
Finally, stay motivated! Remind yourself why these goals are important and what the result will bring when they are achieved—this could range from improving your job prospects or gaining new skillsets—and celebrate each milestone along the way no matter how small it may seem. Staying positive and focused on what lies ahead, not only will it make reaching those bigger goals easier but it will also give you something to look forward to each day!
Setting realistic goals is key to staying productive and motivated throughout the day/ week/ month etc. Start small by breaking down larger objectives into manageable tasks that won’t overwhelm or discourage you too much. Be flexible when things don’t go according to plan and adjust your goals accordingly so that they remain achievable within a certain timeline or even earlier! Finally, stay motivated by reminding yourself why these goals are important and celebrating each milestone no matter how small it may seem. With these tips in mind, turning big ideas into reality can be simpler than ever before! I set a goal of reading for 60 minutes throughout the day. It can happen in the morning, or late in the evening, or it could be 10 minutes spread throughout the day.

JPS Nagi
January12, 2023

How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 2 of 5 – Time & Plan

Links to all 5 parts in this series
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 1 of 5 – Introduction
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 2 of 5 – Time & Plan
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 3 of 5 – Space & Goals
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 4 of 5 – Consistency & Retention
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 5 of 5 – Mind


Learning something new can be intimidating. With so much information out there, it can be hard to know where to start or how to approach the task of mastering a new skill. There is an efficient way to get started that often yields fast results. In this post we will explore the idea of Creating Time and Having a Structure or a Learning Plan.
Create Time
The very first thing you need to learn anything new is time. Some of us have a lot of time, while others have no time throughout the day. However, if you look at it, you may be able to find a little bit of time here and there. And you should be very cautious about giving because you are not getting any of it back – protect it at all costs.
I (used to) have a very short commute to work, and I enjoy reading. I combined the two and started listening to audiobooks on my way to and from work. most of the time, I would even come home for lunch. So roughly four 10-minute trips a day, means that I would have read for 40 minutes every day (an hour if you like to listen at 1.5x speed).
Find time, even if it is a small amount, in between meetings, during lunch hour, and spend it on what you wish to learn. In the beginning, those small 10 minutes may not seem a lot, but I was finishing a short book every week, and a long one in 2 weeks, by just listening on weekdays.

Have a Structure or a Plan
When it comes to learning something new, structure is your friend.
Something I learned the hard way when I started to learn to play guitar. Having not even touched one before, I started watching multiple YouTube videos for beginner guitar players. I was not making progress, and there was a reason for that. First, I was moving from one teacher to the other and each tutorial video approaches learning differently. I was moving from one method to the other. Second, having learned a couple of chords, what was the next chord to learn? There was no structure in my learning.
A structured approach will give you direction and focus, helping you stay on track and avoid feeling overwhelmed by too much information. Having guidance from an expert in the field also means that you are more likely to learn the material correctly from the beginning, which will save time and effort when building on what you’ve learned later on down the line. Additionally, having someone else provide structure for you in terms of assignments and deadlines can help keep you motivated and accountable for your progress, as well as give you a sense of accomplishment as you work through each step in the process. This can be especially helpful if your goal is to learn something quickly; breaking up the process into manageable chunks with clear milestones makes it easier to stay focused and motivated while working towards your end goal.
The way to fix that is to either find a professional or a guide, who can help provide a structure. If you are going to use something like YouTube, then find a single learning source and just follow through with that. In my case, if I would have followed only one of the guitar teachers, that would have given me the structure I needed to make better progress. I got myself a guitar instructor and he provided me with the structure I made more progress in the first week with him than I had in a month learning on my own.

JPS Nagi
January 12, 2023

How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 1 of 5 – Introduction

Learning something new can be intimidating. With so much information out there, it can be hard to know where to start or how to approach the task of mastering a new skill. There is an efficient way to get started that often yields fast results. In this piece, I have outlined how I learn a new skill, and many times what I have not done before.

As soon as the pandemic hit, I got a sense that we are in this for a while. Like so many others, I felt boxed in. The boundaries of work and life were getting fuzzy. I missed that human connection with my colleagues and friends. I saw my kids also feeling down in the new world order. I sat down and created a list of everything that I wanted to do, to learn if I had the time. That list had close to 27 different items, like learning to play guitar, how to draw or paint, learning and master unique recipes, learning to read and write Tengwar, and starting to write my book. I did accomplish some of the items from that list. Along the way, I started to find the commonalities between various items on my list. Which can be seen as a blueprint for my learning and growth journey. I have used this as a blueprint often when I tackle the next thing I am going to learn.

Come with me on a journey on how to learn almost anything.

Links to all 5 parts in this series
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 1 of 5 – Introduction
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 2 of 5 – Time & Plan
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 3 of 5 – Space & Goals
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 4 of 5 – Consistency & Retention
How to Learn Almost Anything, Part 5 of 5 – Mind

JPS Nagi
January 12, 2023

Picking Your Next Guitar – Choosing Woods (Part 2 of 3)

Timber is essentially the xylem of a tree – cells that transport water and minerals from the roots to the leaves. The structure of these cells has a direct impact on the hardness, density, and weight of the resultant wood. Different species of tree will have different growth patterns which will in turn result in timber with different acoustic properties.

For example, Sitka spruce trees have straight trunks with relatively few branches. The grain is tight and even, resulting in light and stiff timber – perfect for building guitar tops! On the other hand, mahogany trees have a more irregular growth pattern, resulting in timber that is heavier and has a more open grain structure. This makes it less suitable for guitar tops but perfect for constructing the bodies and necks of instruments.

Different timbers will produce different tones when used in construction. For example, instruments built with cedar tops tend to have a warmer sound whereas those built with spruce tend to be brighter. Ultimately, it’s up to the builder (or player) to decide which sonic characteristics are most desirable. Some timbers are better at absorbing low frequencies than others. This means that if you want your guitar to have a warm, rich sound, you should look for timber with good low-frequency absorption. Other timbers are better at reflecting high frequencies, giving your guitar a brighter, crisper sound.

Here is a great example of Breedlove Guitars infographic on tone and frequency response for various kinds of wood.

The table below reveals how different aspects of wood manifest themselves with tone.

Property Impact On Sound
Density The absorption of energy from strings is affected by density and type. “Denser” woods like basswood will absorb more than lighter ones, but still not as much so that you can escape its sound completely even with light gauge instruments such as flute or clarinet; however if playing in dense timbers it may be best to take up your options earlier since this timber does provide less “resistance” which means stronger influence came directly out wood itself rather then being absorbed first before reaching our ears via microphone.
In general, harder woods are more absorbent and thus produce a brighter-sounding mid-range with quicker decay. Mahogany is an example of this trend as it has very little density compared to other species such that vibration ends up being easily dissipated through its fibers making them warmer on audio systems rather than harsh like harder juniper trees might be perceived at first glance when listening without context or knowledge about how different kinds affect tone.
Hardness Hardness is an essential component of a guitar’s sound. The higher the frequencies, the harder and more brittle the material seems to be on its surface – this accentuates those notes by making them stand out from other instruments in comparison with your voice or keyboard playing for instance!
As you can imagine there isn’t always agreement among musicians about what exactly “hard” means so we’ll just go ahead & say that these two terms refer differently when talking physics-related stuff here at Guitar Center.
Flexible Strength Spruce, has been found by scientists and musicians alike as being one the most commonly used tonewoods for violins because it produces clearer audio with greater volume than other woods such as cedar or redwood does; making them more popular among professionals who need those qualities while performing on stage
In order words: Stronger flexible timbers receive energy from strings producing a wide dynamic range–great clarity & projection

When choosing the right timber for your guitar, it’s important to keep in mind what sound you’re trying to achieve. If you’re not sure what sound you want, we recommend trying out a few different types of timber until you find one that you like. Here are a few of my favorite timbers for building guitars.

Spruce:
Easily the most commonly used top wood for acoustic guitars and classical guitars. When compared to Cedar (another commonly used soundboard timber), spruce is lighter and possesses greater flexible strength resulting in a wider dynamic range and bright, responsive tone.

Cedar:
Cedar (a member of the Mahogany family, sometimes referred to as Indian Mahogany) is a softer wood than spruce and as a result produces a warm tone, darker, and more complex sounding in comparison.

Walnut:
A medium-density tonewood. Walnut produces a warm, airy, woody tone similar to African mahogany with fewer overtones and more of a focus on the prominent mid-tones. It has a very even dynamic range, meaning it doesn’t accentuate one frequency band over another, resulting in a very balanced sound.

Mahogany:
Mahogany is a great all-rounder when it comes to acoustic properties. It has good low-frequency absorption and good high-frequency reflection, which gives it a warm, balanced sound. Mahogany is also relatively soft, which makes it easy to work with.

Maple:
Maple is another great all-rounder, but it tends to lean more towards the brighter side of the spectrum. Maple has good high-frequency reflection and fair low-frequency absorption. This gives it a crisp, clear sound that is great for all styles of music.

Rosewood:
Rosewood is one of the most popular choices for guitar builders thanks to its rich, full sound. Rosewood has excellent low-frequency absorption and good high-frequency reflection. This makes it great for genres like blues and jazz where a warm, resonant tone is desired.

There are many different types of timber available for use in guitar construction, and each type has its own unique set of acoustic properties. Most hardwoods are unsuitable for soundboard construction. The density of the wood requires too much energy to resonate and has a dull-sounding box, except for Mahogany. Softwoods are not suitable either because they simply wouldn’t have the strength to handle the tension from the guitar’s strings, except for Spruce which is commonly used for acoustic guitar soundboard. The woods used in the construction of the neck, the back, and the sides contribute to the sound of the guitar.

When choosing the right timber for your guitar, it’s important to keep in mind what sound you’re trying to achieve. Set some time aside, play as many guitars as you can, and always trust your ear!

JPS Nagi
Sept. 13, 2022

Audio

The Himalayas – My first original composition from 2001

In 2000, I was studying at the University of Wisconsin. It was the era of Napsters and AOL. High-Speed Internet via DSL was new. In Madison, a small company, Sound Forge, made professional audio and video editing software. As a student, I had access to the software at lower prices. I ended up purchasing Sound Forge, Acid, and Vegas from them. That started my foray into composing my own music.

Acid primarily helped me edit and arrange the music I was putting together. After getting familiar with the tool, I purchased the loops, which were used to stitch it together. Acid also has a very powerful editor as well as looping features to fine-tune what you want to do. There was one hiccup, I needed to create some underlying pieces to put the whole thing together. That’s when I came across another tool – Magix. It is essentially a MIDI editor that can be used to create the pieces you wanted. I was not at all familiar with tablature or writing sheet music back then, so I used my ear. I had to learn MIDI). With these two tools, I was able to put many pieces together. Using my old IBM Thinkpad running Windows ME (yes, I had that version). Here is one of the first pieces of music I composed and arranged.

It is called The Himalayas. When I was working on it in 2001, I was thinking of mountains – tall and majestic; the sounds I used and created reminded me of them. The highest mountain range in the world. The place where the temperatures drop way below what humans can endure. Survival becomes a challenge, yet life sustains under such harsh conditions. Take a deep breath and join on a ride that traverses through the Great Himalayan Range and appreciates the sheer geographic diversity – from the verdant, forested valleys to the tropical jungles. Welcome to the roof of the world.

 

ACID is an incredibly powerful tool that can help you create pieces of music that are truly unique. You’ll be able to experiment with different sounds and effects to create a soundscape that is unlike anything else out there.

JPS Nagi
Sept. 7, 2022

Chasing Stars

A few years ago, my family and I were visiting our parents in India. My increasing birthdays have made me appreciate them more and more. I feel there is so much I can still learn from him.

Sitting down with them, I was telling them about my friends I was in touch with, and asking them about ones I was not (and they were). The conversation went on to what everyone is doing and I made a comment “I wonder if I will ever be successful like him or her”.

My father smiled, and in his wisdom-drenched voice, asked me, “How do you define success?” I was quick to reply and pointed to him how successful they were in their career. He smiled and asked, “And?”. I immediately knew the class is in session with Mr. retired Professor. Here is a bit of paraphrasing of what he taught me that day.

He started with what his father, whom he called “Bhaiya ji” fondly, used to say.
He said that “Bhaiya ji” would say that the greatest gift a person gets is being able to wake up in the morning because that is another day they are alive. So have gratitude for that. There are some who never wake up. 

Even more blessed are those who have good health. If you are healthy, can get up, walk around, be thankful. There are many who cannot do that. 

If you have two hands, be even more grateful, for you can earn your living with those two hands. There are some who will love to be in your position. 

Blessed are those who can earn for themselves and even more blessed are the ones who can ear for their families and provide for them.

And the most blessed are the ones who wake up, are healthy, can earn living for their loved ones and most of all can help others. Only a few can do that – not because they are not capable, but they do not have the courage to do so.

I was patiently listening to him. Then he asked the question, “What is this success you talk about? Money? Fame? Position? Power?”
He paused. “For what? Look closer at everyone who you consider successful, you will see that it is not that picture-perfect you make it to be. If they are successful in their career, their personal lives suffer. If they are successful in their personal lives, their career suffer. If they are doing it all, they themselves suffer, personally, health-wise. What good is success in one area when you cannot manage other aspects of your life?”

By this time, I knew it was time to just listen and collect these pearls of wisdom.

“In your life, you will have to manage your relationships, kids, yourself, career, relatives, friends. If you put more energy into one, others will get affected. If you try to do it all, you, yourself will be affected. You have to balance. Sometimes when you do everything, even then, life throws a googly (cricketing term for the uninitiated, it means a curveball). The western world calls it work-life balance. Try to give everyone the time they deserve, and be grateful for what you have and where you are. You want happiness, go help someone, that is the happiness that nothing else will  bring. And don’t stress about folks around you; you are plenty successful. Indians believe in destiny and no one can take that from you”.

“Go be a world for someone than being no one to the whole world.
And never lose yourself chasing the stars, be grateful about seeing them tonight. They will come back for you the next night”.


JPS Nagi
April 17, 2021

A Father’s Day

On August 16, 1992, my father helped me initiate the next phase of my journey in life.

It was my birthday, and we were traveling from Amritsar to Chandigarh with my cousin, Jasjeet, and his dad. I bid farewell to my mother and got in the car. The monsoon season in north India our journey wet throughout. I remember excited to be going somewhere new, a bit afraid to be away from folks I have lived with thus far. A month earlier, my father had helped me decide to go to PEC, Chandigarh instead of Delhi where Delhi College of Engineering had a “drug problem” as he put it.

As we reached my engineering school that would be my home for the next 4 years, our fathers helped us settle to our assigned room – room #238. I heard a lot of commotion and stepped out in the corridor. All the rooms were being filled in, some boys had parents with them, others on their own. I met a skinny guy next door, with his parents. That was Ajju. Further down there were three boys from Bathinda – Pompy, Numi, and Deepu.

Then, I realized, my father wasn’t around. As we locked the door and walked downstairs, I saw my dad standing half-way in a door, of a small room. As I walked closer, I realized it was the hostel warden. I saw my dad was tipping him (a practice fairly common in India, at least back then). He saw me and introduced me to the warden, who said, “Don’t worry, son. You will be fine”. Then he walked to another room down the hall, which was labeled “Phone room”. A short guy was sitting next to the landline (we didn’t have cell phones back then), our phone attendant. He asked him the hours when he is on duty, noted them on a piece of paper, placed it in his pocket, and tipped him too.

A couple of hours later, both my cousin’s dad and my father were ready to leave to travel back home. My dad gave me a hug and told me that he will call me every day when I return to the hostel after my classes. All I said with teary eyes was “OK”.

28 years later, as I am writing this, I have to say, he has kept his promise. My father (and my mother) have called me every day since, wherever I am in the world. I cannot recall a single day that they haven’t tried to reach me. The cell phones (and my family) have made it easier to find me. They still call me.

Now, I am in the same stage in life when my daughter is getting ready to embark on a similar journey of her life. And I hope I can do the same.

Happy Father’s Day, indeed.


JPS Nagi
June 21, 2020

Prologue

I was never exposed to Dungeons & Dragons while growing up in India. During my later years, as I came to know about it, I have always been fascinated by the game that plays in your mind. After a few discussions during lunch and expressing my curiosity, one of my friends at work decided to set up an introductory D&D session for me. He even created my playable character for me after talking to me and we met after work.
That was last September and I loved it. At present, I am playing in two campaigns. I tend to take very detailed notes and so I decided to write one of the incidents that happened a month back in one of my campaigns. Although it is not the beginning, I am calling it “Prologue” (that may change later).

I do not claim that the story is mine, but it is how it played in my mind. The dialogs are how I heard them and the scenery is how I saw it. It is my retelling of how it went down. I hope my interest stays and I bring more stories like this.

I give you … Prologue …


Prologue

Grommish looks at everyone and speaks in his guttural voice, “I am going to approach the house. You guys should hang back. I do not want to scare the parents”.

Everyone nods except Yolanda, who seems to be annoyed. She grimaces at the suggestion and looks at Grommish, “I will come with you. Last time we talked to them, I was there”.

Fine. But no threats this time. And I will do the talking”. Grommish stares at Yolanda with his piercing orc eyes. “Are we in agreement, Yolanda?

She shrugs and gives a slight nod. Grommish starts walking towards the house and Yolanda follows him.

The rest of their company hangs back from the farmer’s home. The golden glow of the dusk sky gives a strange shade to the already harvested fields. It is a small and humble home made of raw clay bricks that give the house its shade. There are small colored decorations on the house in a darker hue along with some handprints around the outer wall. An old door made from oak wood adorns the house. The roof seems to need a new thatch and a small lantern is hanging on the side of the front of the door. A small paddy field extends around the house on the right and transforms into a vegetable garden behind it.

Carna feels a strange eeriness in the air, now that they were closer to the town.

The town is aptly named Hopeless Fancy. The air is evil. I feel the hope is being drained out of me”, Carna says looking at the rest of them. Everyone seems to agree. Kalyn nods but keeps looking around, scouting the area.

Would you give it a rest, my dear man. This is a poor farmer’s home”, Carna says.

Hey, I can’t help it. This is what I do best” replies Kalyn with a smirk on his face.

Everyone turns their head towards the house, as they hear Grommish knock on the door in a friendly manner. A middle-aged woman opens the door. She is wearing simple lighter colored clothes which have seen some seasons. They can’t hear what they are talking from this distance, but it seems that the orc and the halfling are known to the woman. She seems friendly to them.

Let’s get closer, I can’t hear a thing from here”, Verok suggests. Everyone starts to move a bit closer to the house. The woman looks at the motion beyond Grommish, her eyes widen as they settle on the Dragonborn.

Grommish notices her gaze. “It’s fine Ms. Clairidge, they are my friends. They are with me”, they hear Grommish telling the woman, as they get closer. “That is Verok, and yes he is a Drgonborn”.

The woman looks back at Grommish and sadness seems to creep back in her eyes.

As I was saying Ms. Clairidge, Yolanda and I are still investigating the disappearance of your son. We caught Mad-Eye the hermit but it seems it was a false lead”. Krowley notices that Yolanda looks bored of all this talk and her hand slides along with her bow. The woman dabs her eye with the edge of her shawl and nods.

Ms. Clairidge, I have a favor to ask. I know it is painful for you to recall, but I do wish if you could tell us one more time how did your son disappear”, Grommish requests in the friendliest way possible.

Well, as I told you before”, her voice quivers, “after the day’s work, my husband and my son came back in the house for supper. They both looked tired from tilling the fields and getting ready for the next harvest season. The supper was a quiet affair, and after supper, my son went to bed. And the next morning, he was gone. Gone like the others”.

Are there any other ways to get out of your house, besides this door?”. The woman shakes her head.

Any windows in your son’s room where he could use to get out?”. She again shakes her head.

And the door creaks! How did your son get out of the house without you or your husband knowing, Ms. Clairidge”. Everyone is looking at the woman waiting for her response. Even Yolanda was looking from Grommish to the woman.

Ms. Clairidge’s voice gets agitates a little bit, “What are you trying to say? Our son was kidnapped … kidnapped by that hermit, Mad-Eye … or whatever his name is. My poor son, I wonder where he is, and if he is still …”. She could not finish the sentence and started sobbing.

Grommish looks at her patiently. After a few moments, she composes herself “As I said, he was taken, just like the other children”.

Ms. Clairidge, who are you afraid of?”. The woman’s face jerks up and she looks at Grommish. “Because you and I both know what you are telling us is not true. I caught up with Mad-Eye and he has not taken your son or any other child. Yes, I know, he was around your home when your son was kidnapped. He told me that he saw two figures walking away from your home that evening. It was a little darker so he did not see who it was. But he said one figure matched the height of your son”, Grommish’s tone was serious now. “Who are you afraid of, Ms. Clairidge? I implore you to please tell me what exactly happened. We need to know, so we can save your son, and other children who have been taken”.

And this time, please tell us the truth”.

The woman’s eyes tear up and she starts sobbing. Grommish looks at Yolanda who still seemed indifferent and restless. He looks back at the woman who stops crying, takes a deep sigh and in quivering voice tells what happened.

As I said, my husband and our son came back from the day’s work. After supper, my son went to his room. My husband and I were talking about how much we will be able to save from this harvest when we heard a knock on our door. My husband, David, was the one who answered the door. I was trying to see who was at the door, but my husband was blocking my view. All I could see was someone who was wearing a dark robe. Then my husband called my son. I stood up and walked up to the door. As our son came out of his room, my husband asked him to accompany the man. I tried stepping forward and asking him who is at the door, and why was he asking our son to go with him. But my husband blocked my path with his arm and closed the door behind our son. He stopped me from opening the door behind my son and told me later that it was the Dark Druid who threatened the life of our son. He also said that the druid told him that our son’s life will be spared if he comes with us. That’s all I know”.

Clairidge then drops on her knees, buries her face in her hands and started crying, “My son. Gone. Gone like the others. My poor son”.

Grommish kneels next to her and puts his hand on the woman’s shoulders.

Don’t worry Ms. Clairidge, we will find your son. I am sorry that you had to relive this again. I do not think it was the Dark Druid who took your son. Dark Druids do not exist anymore, for a few thousand years now”. Ms. Clairidge looks up inquisitively at Grommish.

You do not think it was the Dark Druid who took my son?”, she asks Grommish.

No, I do not think so. I think someone is posing as a Dark Druid and I need to find out why. We will try our best to find your son and other children who have been taken. Thank you for telling us the truth. Now we know exactly what happened and can do the right investigation”.

“If it is alright with you, we would like to speak to your husband, David, and ask him if he can give us any clue to who could be the person who was posing as the Dark Druid”, Grommish says standing up.

The woman stops crying and nods. She stands up and points towards the field in the southwest direction beyond where the rest of the party is standing. “David is still working in the fields”.

Everyone turns to look behind at a solitary figure working on the other side of the field. He seemed to be trying to stay oblivious to them all, slowly moving away. As he notices everyone looking in his direction, he stands up.

Hello there”, Carna calls. David drops the sickle and the scythe from his hands and starts running away from the house. Ms. Clairidge eyes widen in surprise and then she sees everyone running behind David.


JPS Nagi
March 15, 2020